Kotohira

After leaving Matsuyama, we took a train to Kotohira, a small town famed for its temples. We got in in the morning, dropped our bags and headed out for sightseeing.

The first thing on our list was the oldest surviving Kabuki playhouse in Japan. The theater was built in 1835, and the entire backstage, trapdoors and all, is open for tourists to explore.

The entryway was lined with lanterns, and the doorway was about three feet tall, not sure why…

The interior of the theater is beautiful and really interesting. The in-house guide didn’t speak much English, but he quite bravely pointed out the theaters features for Jeff and I as best he could. The theater had tracks on the ceiling to make actors fly, several trapdoors, and a rotating stage — pretty high-tech for the 1800s! The runway was also made to accentuate the actors’ footsteps, and there were slats across the theater floor so that actors could run through the audience.

Jeff tried out his acting skills… zexy! —random complaint: Jeff packed only one pair of shorts on the trip. The pair that doesn’t go with ANYTHING! sigh —

We toured the backstage, including the basement, where we saw how the various trapdoors worked. The rotating stage was pushed by six men, while various lifts for actors were powered by others. There were several passages around the stage as well, allowing for a variety of ways for actors to have dramatic entrances into the play.

After playing in the theater, we headed to the main attraction in town, a mountaintop temple. The temple was up 876 stairs, but that was nothing after hiking down 8,000 steps a few times in mountains in China.

The temple complex was spread across the mountaintop, so we got to take short breaks by looking at the various shops and shrines on the way up.

The temple was dedicated to the god of the sea, for protection for sailors. The roof was decorated with designs of dragons and waves, really unique! In the past, many people who wanted to make pilgrimages to the temple couldn’t afford to, so they tied an offering around a dog’s neck and through it into the ocean, hoping that passing sailors would find the dog and take it to the temple. I’m not really sure why they could put the money on a raft, instead of killing the family dog, but I guess that’s just my compassion for animals talking.

At the mountaintop there was this cool statue of a fan, for no apparent reason. Too bad it didn’t work though!

After our temple tours, we hiked back down and got a much-needed snack since we’d only had elevensies and no lunch. Ice cream with puffed rice on it seemed to be a town specialty, so that’s what we had.

Then, we did what should be the town’s biggest tourist attraction: fish pedicures!!!! I’d heard about these in the news about a year ago, and have been curious ever since. At $10 for 10 minutes, they were a bit pricey, but how could we resist? If you haven’t heard of these before, you basically put your feet in a fish tank, and fish eat your callouses off. And yes, it was amazing!

My feet are pretty calloused, and the fish loved them.

It really tickles! There were two Korean girls next to us who kept screaming and laughing and carrying on. I managed to keep it mostly together.

The results of the fish pedi weren’t amazing or anything, but it was quite the experience. I’d say I got my money’s worth.

After our pedicures, we still had time to kill before our hostel opened, so we went to the nearby sake museum. It had life-sized models of each step of the sake-making process as well as a lot of sake cups and a sake shop. It didn’t have any English so we cruised through pretty fast.

The museum was supposed to have sake samples, but it was near closing time so we didn’t get to booze it up. Oh well, fun day anyway!